The South Korean ministry of education has announced a ground-breaking plan to digitize all textbooks which are in use in Korean schools and thus completely phase out printed materials by 2015. This opens a huge market for manufacturers of tablet PCs, laptops and smartphones as the Korean education ministry has revealed it will spend US$2.4 billion on buying appropriate devices and digitizing content for them.
The Korean government's "Smart Education" scheme will see the creation of a cloud computing network in order to allow students to access digital textbooks and store their homework so it can be accessed via any internet-connected device, including tablets, smartphones, PCs and smart TVs. The plan also includes introducing more online classes from 2013 so that students who are sick or unable to attend school due to weather conditions will be able to participate in virtual classes.
The ministry plans to digitize all primary school textbooks by 2014 and all mid and high school textbooks by the following year. Both, digital and printed textbooks, will be in use during the transition period and nationwide academic tests will also be held online. As part of the shift to digital, all schools will have wireless Internet access points set up by 2015 and the ministry will provide free tablet PCs to low-income families.
Korean officials quote the latest OECD report into digital literacy, that aimed to test how 15 year olds from different countries use computers and the internet to learn. The report found that Korean teenagers came out on top compared to students in 19 countries.
"That's why Korean students, who are already fully prepared for digital society, need a paradigm shift in education," the ministry official said in the JoongAng Daily newspaper.
Certainly, such a policy will provide a significant boost to the IT sector in South Korea and the ministry points out that digital textbooks will be cheaper than printed versions.